Some argue that we are the sum of the decisions and relationships we have made over the years. Others debate the impact of nature vs. nurture as the primary drivers of who we are.
Although that type of thinking has some value when triaging aspects of our lives, it offers little hope when we have the need for a major pivot or revival of our souls after major trauma. Those conventional views actually work against our desire/need to reinvent.
Can you imagine walking away from reading this and venturing to do something you’ve never done before? Kissing a stranger, attending a religious event for a faith you don’t believe in, or meditating in your backyard naked (Speedos optional). I may or many not have done all of these (shh…), but let’s say I’m open to some new suggestions.
What you do is irrelevant, but knowing that you can do whatever comes to mind is foundational otreinvention. Free from fear of condemnation. Free from abstract ideas of what failure is. Free from the definition of who you are, based on your past.
Start small, but train your brain to create new realities, one decision at a time. Intentionally get lost, seek out anxiety, and awkwardness. Embrace the beauty of not being good enough. The emotional range and learnings we get from near misses, tend to be more memorable and propelling than the easy wins.
Learn to respectfully ignore friends and family, when safety is not concerned. They often are the builders and reinforces of the boxes you have felt trapped in. They want what they think would make you happy based on their experiences. My secret is I’m very open about my unpredictability. In practice, I am actually pretty moderate, but I make sure the people who know me are aware that I am constantly redefining who I am, so they don’t fixate on what you have already seen.
If all you do is one new thing after reading this, I will smile in my soul, knowing that I might have helped you along your journey. If all you do is think about me in speedos in my backyard… You are welcome!
The concept of trust is intriguing.
How many times have you said that you do or don’t trust someone?
Implicit in the most generic definition of trust is the expectation that we can predict how people will behave, regardless of unknown future circumstances.
We want to believe that people will always do what they say or do what’s “right.” Yet, we don’t often step back and consider that people will change and have varying definitions of right and wrong, that also evolve.
So, where does that leave us? Should we abandon trust and be perpetually revisiting our assumptions?
I’m not going to add a qualifier either.
Life teaches us that people/institutions will usually do what’s in their perceived best interest to survive. Regardless of what they have told you, promised you, and even at times in conflict with the rules of a civil society.
Trust as we have come to know it, makes us lazy. We allow it to substitute the difficult and often uncomfortable work of continually learning what really motivates the people we interact with.
Instead of trust, may I suggest more of an evolving alignment. Let the actual words and actions of the people in your life be fuel for growing your relationships. Check if you are still aligned, and if things have changed, explore what you both have to do to get back in step.
The concept doesn’t scale, and that’s okay. People you don’t communicate with will continue to serve their self-interests, regardless of what you expect, so don’t let their decisions stress you out. In their mind, you are doing the very same thing…
In summary ,
– You will change
– Others will change
– Acknowledge your misalignments
– If the relationship has value, evolve to preserve it!
In case you’ve never met me, it may be relevant to know that my skin is likely darker than yours. Just a hunch, but my lineage traces back to an indigenous people, with no known mixing outside of the race.
Yet, when I see people of the same or different complexions, here and abroad, I often find myself momentarily projecting assumptions about wealth, intelligence, and strength. There is even a quick subconscious assessment of my advantage or perhaps my vulnerabilities.
Instincts, I think that’s what we call them. They are these emotional and mental shortcuts we’ve developed throughout our lives to increase our likelihood of survival and success. Evolutionarily, instincts evolve slowly in nature and time proves out those that are valid.
Our reality as humans has taken a bit of a turn from the rest of nature. The instincts we have now are not our own any more. They are derivatives of the content we digest. We listen and watch news stories and view social media updates passively, not realizing they are changing us faster than any other evolutionary change I have ever heard of.
When I hear the word terrorist, why does my mind already have a profile ready? What about words like poor, rich, techie, tree-hugger, banker, athlete,… you name it, we have been trained to expect certain people to fit these profiles.
Like it or not, this is our current reality. Accepting this however, is how we begin to empower the change most of us would assume to be the right change. Accepting this, means becoming more conscious of the content we consume. More aware of how our consumption drives business, which drives more of the same content.
Human nature is predictable in that we ultimately do what works. Sadly, we have seen that being racist (or similarly sexist) works for far too many people in too many parts of the world.
Those of us who are aware can unwind our “-ist” tendencies by starting to create balance in our consumption. For every negative stereotype we are exposed to, can we actively seek out a counter? If our media sources continue to only focus on the negative, do we have the courage to cut them off and let them know why?
Make a change first for yourself, then bring others along. In time, as we change the nature of what “works,” we can heal our race, the human one…
Please forgive me if the image is too graphic. But, it’s me. It’s the part of me, most have never seen. Always present, but never visible.
A few screws, plates, nuts, and bolts keep me from paralysis or worse. I definitely went through a stretch where my self image took a hit.
But, I don’t write this for sympathy though, so please don’t worry about me. In many ways I’m significantly more at peace than I have ever been.
In the passing of Muhammad Ali, we saw a man who bore his infirmities very publicly. He provided a proud and beautiful face to Parkinson’s disease. A condition, many have suffered with, in the dark.
In a world, where we all feel pressured to “fix ourselves,” I ask that we pause. What if, from now, you spent your time and energy doing the best you can to live a full life, just as you are?
You may not have titanium implants in your body, but you have likely built some emotional or mental hardware to stabilize yourself from previous hurts. If not, seek that stability you need to find your personal contentment. After you’ve secured safety from further harm, then let the fun begin.
Many of my friends know that I started referring to myself as “Hot Chocolate” a few years ago, embarking on my personal mission to spread the hotness to the world. However, most didn’t know that my new sexy self only emerged when my physical body was at it’s weakest. Being keenly aware of the delicate fragility of life and vitality, I decided to optimize that which I could control. It’s been fun writing my own story, comparing my life to no one else. Just quietly exceeding my own expectations day by day.
I laugh when I hear all the things people suggest I should fix: my chipped tooth, my skinny chicken legs, the woefully under-furnished home, or my barely tapped potential as a bachelor. Thanks for the tips, but I’m really just enjoying being alive. I might get to the other stuff, but then again…
I hope you too can know that joy. Live my friends, really enjoy each day, it’s the best thing you’ve got going for you.
Hot chocolate out!
Where are you from? Why are you here? If you are not one of us, you must be here to take what’s mine…
Gangs fight over streets, blocks, or anything that has some perceived value. Countries bicker over disputed territory. Corporations, political parties, religions, you name it, all fight over the rights to some geographic or ideological claim to ownership. Of course I recognize that there is usually some real short-term advantage that these groups obsess over, but it’s often like we focus on a leaf, yet miss the branch, the tree, or the entire forest that is before us.
At the heart of each fight is the perceived value of that thing they fight over. What I find interesting is that we spend so much energy focused on the things we fight over that we seldom as if the value justifies the quarrel.
That’s the essence of this post, challenging us to broaden our perspective and re-evaluate our valuation.
On a trip to Iceland, I marveled at seeing black sand beaches for the first time. While I debated how to collect some sand to take back home with me, one of the locals said, “we have tons and tons of that here… if you can find a way to sell it, we can get rich together.” As I laughed, I began to form my views on the arbitrary nature of what we consider to be precious.
When we think something is rare, or are told so, we innately ascribe a higher value to it. We desire it, we compete for it, and once attained, protect it at all costs. Future generations continue that fight, never questioning the futility of the prize.
Okay, I’m being a little abstract. A tangible example is that of the value of diamonds. Many reports claim that diamonds are actually not that rare of a gem, but the industry has masterfully created a narrative to justify their premium. Gangs fight over areas that are actually owned by the local municipalities. The fact that they are killing each other over territory that they can never actually own, is never discussed. They fight because they’ve always fought.
I struggled to write this because there is no “solution.” However, I would be happy if we can just slow down the pace and intensity of conflicts by asking a few questions:
What makes that thing that I am fighting for valuable?
Are there other similar alternatives that I just have not seen yet?
Has what was once valuable become less so over time?
Is there a larger, more beneficial pursuit that is a better use of my time and energy?
While we fight, does someone else benefit from our focus on the little things?
I could go on, but I wanted to drop a grain of black sand into your mind and hope that it will one day become a beautiful pearl. At the same time, I do hope you are asking yourself, “… how valuable are pearls anyway?”
The world is so full of inspiration, when we can slow down enough to catch it. This week, while in Panama, I made a new friend. Our meeting itself was unconventional. Me, the quiet lone traveler, taking in the sites on a rooftop bar. She, the vibrant, joyful soul, celebrating her birthday with friends.
The group welcomed me in and my new friend volunteered to give me a tour of the city. Tourism pitch: the hospitality of Latin America is truly unlike any other. You must visit!
Let me refocus on the topic at hand…
As our tour began, we spoke about many things and she revealed to me that she had just quit her job. Not because there was anything better to run to, but just knowing that the life she was living to accommodate her job was not one that she wanted to maintain. It’s a choice that many people make, but what stood out to me was the peace she had, not knowing what was next. The peace was in the decision itself. There was a visible sense of empowerment in that she would choose what would come next in her life.
Our conversation impacted my view on a few things. I remembered the young lady I met on the plane, who described her multiple skills and her world of TV and Film production. My head was spinning by her array of talents, but what stood out the most, was that she was able to choose what projects and locations she worked in.
Later, I met a 61 year-old man, with 10 children, who fished for a living. For a small fee, he would take foreigners out to sea with him and allow them to join his vocation. His quiet strength and poise was that of a noble man. His contentment was palpable.
I had to pause. I was a little bit jealous. But at no point did I wonder about their economic wellbeing. I saw a type of richness in life that I think we all would find fulfilling.
We are all capable of achieving wealth. But it’s not in how much we accumulate. It’s more in our realization that whether we choose to party all night or sit still under the sun. It is in that choice where life is most abundant. Others may have different options than you, but ultimately, you will define your own wealth.
Choose wisely, choose freely, but when it’s all said and done, just chose and value the experience that decision yields …
It’s 3:00 in the morning, and instead of being in deep sleep, I’m wide awake and thinking about chess. The game that looked so simple, yet for so long frustrated me in my youth. I learned the moves quickly enough. With competitive zeal, I jumped onto my school chess team and was soundly beat in rapid fashion.
I am free to no longer just believe what I have been told.
Dr. Gore’s lecture began with, “In the beginning God created Math…” Imagine my reaction. Having grown up extremely religious, and very scientifically inclined, I had always kept the two separate. And in one sentence, I found myself curiously speechless.
What we proceeded to learn was how to prove that 1 + 1 does NOT equal 2. Contact me for details, but the heart of the exercise was that, based on your assumptions, you can prove almost anything.
Whether you are talking about Science, Religion, or any social construct, if you peel the layers of the onion enough, you’ll always find some assumption or definitions at the core that are most likely based on theory. Few of us consider the validity of our assumptions.
Over the course for our lives, the number of things we take to be true without further exploration grows. It’s as if we get lazy and let others do all the exploring for us. Religious books “tell” us all we need to know. Scientific journals “tell” us of the experiments others have done to prove things.
We sit in pews and listen to preachers or we watch TV shows that explain all the mysteries away.
STOP! GET UP, GET OUT, and DISCOVER some “thing” for yourself!
Sorry for the excessive caps, but our humanity is at stake.
Spiritual people, all your spiritual founders had journeys that led to enlightenment. Please take your own journey. We need to hear your authentic & unique stories too. Scientists, challenge old assumptions and look at old experiments with new perspectives, and share what you discover. If you fall in neither category, I’m sure you have plenty of assumptions that you can re-examine too.
There are so many ways I can take this, but I will stop and hope I meet some of you on our journeys of discovery. I look forward to hearing what you have discovered for yourself and trust I’ll have a couple of interesting stories to share too!
Remember, if I can prove that 1 + 1 is not equal to 2, what else might you be wrong about?
I might not realize that, relative to the mightiest who are no longer with us, I am strong.
The awareness that with each breath, I have the ability to sustain, improve, or even create a new future would allude me.
Kind words from strangers, and persistent calls from friends and family would be a nuisance.
That car that’s always in the shop or my drafty small bedroom might cause me to overlook their ample function and curse contentment.
Lonely nights wouldn’t realize their liberating creative potential.
The wisdom acquired through pain would not light my path, or protect those who come behind me.
My larger than life smile would hide in the shadows of a persistent frown.
My murky lens would distort the memories of the purest and most genuine moments of joy that disrupt my otherwise steady state melancholy.
Alas, I’m not depressed, any more…